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Will right to repair be great? We’ll soon find out with the 1st repair programme from Apple

Four months on and several product releases later, where is it?

Right To Repair

Last November, Apple released a press release entitled Apple announces Self Service Repair, all about their Right To Repair program. Pretty much, it caught everyone by surprise as it seemingly flew in the face of the direction the company had been taking over the last few years. But after that tumultuous reception, has it actually achieved anything?

What we were supposed to get

The press release started out by stating ‘Apple parts, tools, and manuals — starting with iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 — available to individual consumers’. The idea seemed to be, that if you were confident in your abilities at tearing down iPhones, then you’d now be able to carry out repairs yourself with genuine parts. You’d no longer be tied to the 5000 Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs) and 2,800 Independent Repair Providers. No, from now on, you could sit at home with parts and manuals supplied direct from Apple and make-good your products. In that same press release, it stated that although the plan was to start only with iPhone 12 & 13, the program would soon extend to Apple Silicon Mac’s as well. Staring solely in the United States, it was to run out to other major countries around the world during 2022.

Apples CEO, Jeff Williams explained that although, over the past three years they had all but doubled the number of service centre locations, that they were now encouraging owners to carry out basic repairs themselves. Repairs to the most common flaws and faults were first to be addressed. The initial phase covered iPhone displays, battery & cameras. There will be an option to carry out further repairs too, we are told.

Are you up for the challenge?

Up to 200 individual parts & tools for the two models of iPhone were to be made available, allowing customers to carry out the most common, basic repairs. A manual would first be sent out, the idea being to see if you felt confident (or competent) enough to carry out the repairs. Then, an order would be placed at the Apple Self Service Repair Online Store for parts and tools. On completion of your project, you’d be encouraged to return the old parts. Apple will recycle those parts, maintaining their environmental status, and you’d receive a credit note. All that said, Apple still encourage you visit a trained technician.

Sounds like a good idea

At the time, it sounded like a great idea. And, although met with raised eyebrows, it was very well received. That said, I count myself as reasonably savvy, but there is no way, you are going to catch me setting out to make a repair to my iPhone any time soon. And this, I think, was the clever detail.

Apple makes a press release and gets favourable headlines, but in reality, it means little. I don’t know of anyone who has undertaken a repair themselves, successful or otherwise. And don’t forget, they made the point of saying you’d be able to repair Mac’s soon too, not just iPhone. Now, am I alone in thinking the chances of you buying a £5000 MacBook, then attempting to repair it yourself, is a pretty unlikely scenario? But….it’s a win-win for the tech giant. They have scored points on making a cute PR offer but then, likely score yet more points as you’ll almost certainly have to take your half-hearted repair to an Apple Store to have the job finished. Effectively, you are paying twice. Now that is good business!

Speaking of new Macs….

So, a moment ago, I levelled the idea of attempting to repair your new Mac. Bringing that right up to date, let’s look at the Right To Repair and the new Mac Studio.

Luke Miani posted a video on his channel where we see him taking apart a pair of brand new Mac Studio’s. A brave man for sure, but the experiment, was an excellent concept.

There had been rumours that was a spare slot inside the Studio for more storage. On either option of these machines, be it with the M1 Max or Ultra, you can choose up to four storage options. The choices range between 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB and a gargantuan 8 TB. The guess is that the extra slot is there for the two larger options. But, the fact remains, the slots are physically there on all Mac Studio’s.

So, do you have the right to repair?

Miani, tried numerous variations to see how much ‘right to repair’ there actually was. Firstly, he attempted to move the SSD from one Mac Studio to another Mac Studio, placing it in the empty slot in that machine. In theory, if it worked, that would double the storage, thereby giving you some modularity. Not only did it not work, but the flashing amber light on the front warning that it was not working, was flashing in Morse code, giving out the SOS message. So, it knew a chip was there, and also that it shouldn’t be!

Next up, he tried simply to move the SSD from it original slot to the spare slot in the same Mac Studio. Again, nope. It would not boot. The fact we saw the flashing white status light, implies that the Mac didn’t recognise the SSD at all.

Lastly, Luke, swapped SSD’s from one Mac Studio to another. So now, we are using just one SSD and in the correct slot but in a different machine. Should be fine right? But no — the Mac refused to boot in any way, shape or form. It would simply not boot up.

What is Apple up to then?

The above experiment, certainly seems to fly in the face of the Right To Repair program. This is the newest of all Mac’s, so if any were going to be built to support the Right To Repair, it would be this model.

Sadly, it appears that Apple may just have been playing with us. A press release that sounded promising, but when it comes down to it was put out simply to avoid any unwanted regulatory scrutiny. They have ticked a box. It would seem as if we are no further forward in Apple giving you access to your device. Lets us not forget, what we have seen, is that these new Macs do have removable storage volumes. For the two smaller base models, there are no controllers on the second, empty slot. It is quite remarkable that they would seem to have gone to extreme lengths to make sure that there was no way, even on a £5000 computer, that you have just bought, that you could add any storage.

I think I’d have more sympathy, possibly, had Miani have endeavoured to use cheaper, third-party SSD’s. But he didn’t. These were proprietary, OEM solid-state drives. Surely, that is precisely what I was writing about at the start of this blog. Would this not be precisely the kind of thing you’d want to be able to do for yourself? All that seems to be preventing this second slot from working is a software or firmware update.

Maybe, just maybe, if there are enough loud voices that Apple hear, they may change their minds on this lockdown decision, or at least explain to us why it is currently impossible to use that second slot.

What do you think? Has Apple been unfair in not allowing you to add more storage after purchase to your Mac Studio? Let me know.

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Originally published at https://www.talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on March 22, 2022.

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